CAIRO: Four Arab states refrained on Wednesday from slapping further sanctions on Qatar but voiced disappointment at its “negative” response to their demands and said their boycott of the tiny Gulf nation would continue.
Qatar earlier in the day accused Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt of “clear aggression” and said the accusations cited when they severed ties a month ago “were clearly designed to create anti-Qatar sentiment in the West”.
The four Arab nations accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran — which Doha denies — and their foreign ministers met in Cairo on Wednesday after a deadline they gave Qatar to meet 13 demands expired.
They had been expected to consider further sanctions at the gathering, but announced no new measures.
“The response the four states got was overall negative and lacked any content. We find it did not provide a basis for Qatar to retreat from its policies,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said, reading out a joint statement after the meeting.
“The political and economic boycott will continue until Qatar changes its policies for the better,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference.
The four said they would next meet in the Bahraini capital Manama though gave no date. Intelligence chiefs from the four countries also met in Cairo on Tuesday night, officials said.
Qatar’s response to the demands has not been made public.
Jubeir said he hoped Turkey would remain neutral in the dispute. Turkey, the biggest regional power to stand by Qatar, has sent to Doha 100 cargo planes with supplies since its neighbours cut air and sea links. It has also rushed through legislation to send more troops to its base in Doha.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday dismissed calls for closure of the base and said the list of Arab demands amounted to an unlawful intervention against Qatari sovereignty.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone about the Qatar dispute, Sisi’s office said on Wednesday.
“The visions of the two presidents on dealing with current regional crises were in line, especially when it comes to reaching political settlements which contribute to regional security and stability,” Sisi’s office said in a statement.
The Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, told a session of London’s Chatham House think tank that Doha was continuing to call for dialogue to settle the row. “[This is] despite the separation of 12,000 families, despite the siege that is a clear aggression and an insult to all international treaties, bodies and jurisdictions,” he said.
“Reading between the lines, the blockading countries [are] demanding that we have to surrender our sovereignty to end the siege, something which ... Qatar will never do,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Responding to the accusation that it has drawn too close to Iran across the Gulf, he said Doha had to live alongside Tehran since the two states shared an offshore gas field.
Qatari officials say the Gulf states’ demands are so stiff they suspect they were never seriously meant for negotiation.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2017